Health Watch - The Brain: Short-term Memory

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about how the brain works. It takes minutes to hours for the brain to store permanent memories. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have learned how the brain buffers rapidly incoming information by holding it temporarily.

Individual nerve cells in the front of the brain — the most highly evolved area — can hold memories for as long as a minute. Dr. Don Cooper, a UT Southwestern psychiatrist, says it’s like the difference between random-access memory, or RAM, on a computer and saving information to a disk. RAM is temporary and rewritable, while information on a disk can be accessed over and over again. The temporary memory is susceptible to distraction and is easily disrupted. This research could be helpful in understanding addiction, attention disorders and stress-related memory loss. In the long term, researchers hope to develop drugs that can help maintain memory or resist addiction.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in mental health.


April 2009

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